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Geiger Counter Kit 

Make] Projects 

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build, hack, tweak, share, discover,- 

Geiger Counter Kit 

Written By: Jeff Keyzer 



Needlenose pliers (1) 
Screwdriver, Phillips head (1) 
Soldering iron, with solder (1) 
Wire cutter and stripper (1) 

MAKE Geiger Counter Kit (1) 
contains all of the following parts: 

Geiger Counter Kit printed circuit board 
(PCB) (1) 

ATtiny2313 microcontroller IC (U1) (1) 
20- pin package 

555 timer IC (U2) (1) 
8-pin package 

Resonator, ceramic (X1) (1) 
orange or blue with 3 leads, marked 
8.00M or 8.0MC 

Piezo Speaker (LSD (1) 

round, black, with a hole in the middle 

Transistor. FJN3303F (Q1) (1) 
marked J3303 

Transistors, 2N3904 (Q2. Q3) (2) 
marked 3904 

Diode. 1N4937(D1)(1) 

the larger, black diode with a white stripe 

Diode. 1N914(D2) (1) 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

the smaller, reddish orange diode with a 
black stripe 

Resistor. 15Q(R8) (1) 

Resistor. 330Q (R6) (1) 

Resistor. 100Q(R11) (1) 

Resistor. 1K(R5) (1) 

Resistors. 10K (R3. R10) (2) 

Resistor. 22K (R4) (1) 

Resistors. 100K(R1. R7) (2) 

Resistor. 220K(R9)(1) 

Resistor. 4.7M (R2) (1) 
yellow- violet-green-gold 

Resistor, variable. 10Q (VR1) (1) 
blue with a white screw in the middle 

Inductor. 10mH (L1) (1) 

the small black cylinder marked 103 on 


Capacitor. 220pF (C2) (1) 
marked 221 K 

Capacitor. 1nF(C3) (1) 

tiny. 5mm lead spacing, marked 102 

Capacitor. 0.01 uFjClj (1) 
the biggest disc, marked 103M 

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Capacitor. 0.1uF(C4) (1) 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

tiny, 2.5mm lead spacing, marked 104 

Capacitor, electrolytic. 100|iF (C5) (1) 
black cylinder marked WOuF 

Slide switch. (S1) (1) 

Pushbutton. (S2) (1) 
micros witch 

Geiger tube holders. (J1. J2) (2) 
the clips 

Battery holder, for 2xAAA batteries (B1) 


Header pins. 2x3 row (J5) (1) 
for the ICSP connector 

Header pins. 1 row (J6. J 7) (1) 

to break into 1x3 and 1x6, you may have 

some left over 

IC socket. 20 pins (1) 

IC socket. 8 pins (1) 

Screw (1) 

for the battery holder 


• Geiger-Muller tube (1) 

cylindrical tube wrapped in foam or 
bubble wrap 


Commercial Geiger counters can cost hundreds of dollars. Build your own at a fraction of the 
price! This easy-to-solder kit can be built in an evening and it works just like you think it 
would; clicking and blinking in the presence of radiation. Just follow the instructions here to 
build it and use it. 

Your MAKE Geiger Counter Kit features: 

Detects beta and gamma raysSerial logging outputMute buttonLED indicator M Clicker M speakerPulse outputATtiny2313 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

microcontrollerSBM-20 Geiger-Muller tubeRuns on two AAA alkaline batteries (not included) 

Is grandma's dish collection radioactive? Do bananas give off radiation? Are your granite 
countertops giving off gamma rays? Build your own Geiger counter and find out! The serial 
logging function lets you easily track exposure over time, and the mute button lets you 
silently detect radiation. A must for every mad scientist. 

WARNING: This Geiger Counter kit is for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. Don't even 
think about using it to monitor radiation in life-threatening situations, or in any environment 
where you may expose yourself to dangerous levels of radiation. Don't rely on the collected 
data to be an accurate measure of radiation exposure. Be safe! 

Step 1 — Solder the resistors. 



SI- 1G Geiger Counter vl.0 

• To build this kit, you should know how to solder. And it'll be much easier if you've made 
other kits before. But even if this is your first kit, don't despair! Just take your time and 
you'll be fine. 

• If you've never soldered before, Andie Nordgren, Mitch Altman, and Jeff Keyzer of 
MightyOhm made a fun comic book that will teach you how. You can find it online, 
translated into many languages, at . 

• We recommend soldering one resistor at a time unless you know what you're doing! 

• The resistors can go in either way — they're not polarized. Bend the leads of each resistor 
straight down and push them through the holes in the board, then bend them out at a 45° 
angle to keep the resistor from falling out. 

• Turn the board over, and solder each lead. Then, cut off the excess leads with your wire 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 2 — Solder the diodes. 

• Diodes are polarized, so they have to go in the right way. Make sure the stripe lines up 
with the black band shown on the board! 

• D1 is larger, and black with a white stripe. 

• D2 is smaller, and reddish-orange colored, with a black stripe. 

• Both are labeled with the part number, although it can be hard to read. 

Step 3 — Solder the slide switch (SI). 

• Make sure it sits flat on the board with the plastic lever sticking off the edge. I like to 
solder one of the end tabs, then reflow the solder and push it flat with my finger (don't 
leave the soldering iron on it too long, or you will say "ouch!") 

• Be sure to solder both tabs on the ends as well as the 3 leads. 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 4 — Solder capacitors C3, C4, and the variable resistor (VR1). 


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• Both of these capacitors are very small. C4 goes next to U2 and is marked 104. It's the 
very tiny capacitor with narrowly spaced leads (2.5mm). 

• C3 is marked 102 and has wider spaced leads (5mm). 

• The variable resistor is easy to find — it's blue with 3 leads. 

Step 5 — Solder the transistors. 

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• First, solder Q1. It's marked J3303. Make sure the flat spot of the transistor lines up with 
the markings on the PCB. You'll need to bend the leads slightly to get them into the holes 

• NOTE: Don't push the transistors all the way down against the PCB — leave a few 
millimeters gap. 

• Solder Q2 and Q3, marked 3904. Make sure you put them in the right way, following the 
markings on the board! 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 6 — Install the headers (optional). 




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• If you want to log data or hack the kit, install the headers J5, J6, and J7. 

• J5 is the double-row header (2 rows x 3 pins). 

• J6 and J7 are single-row headers. Carefully break the supplied header strip into 1 strip of 3 
and 1 strip of 6 pins, using pliers or wire cutters. 

• When soldering the headers, it's a good idea to solder one pin first, then make sure the 
header is straight, and then solder the rest of the pins. 

Step 7 — Solder capacitor C2 and the ceramic resonator XI. 

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• C2 is marked 221 K and sits up above the PCB a little bit. 

• X1 is marked 8.00M or 8.0MC and has 3 leads. 

• Both of these can be installed in either direction — they are nonpolarized. 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 8 — Solder IC sockets Ul and U2 and pushbutton S2. 

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• U1 and U2 pop into place and are easy to solder. Make sure the notch in the socket aligns 
with the notch in the silkscreened image on the PCB. You don't need to clip the leads, 
they're already very short. 

• Important: If you'll mount your Geiger counter in the included acrylic case, use the 
pushbutton that comes with the case hardware (it has a long shaft) and solder it 
last, after all the other components! 

• The pushbutton can go in either way. No need to clip the leads on this either. 

Step 9 — Solder the inductor (LI), the piezo (LSI), and the electrolytic 
capacitor (C5). 


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• L1 is the black cylinder marked 103. It can go in either way. 

• LS1 is the large, short cylinder with a hole in the middle. It can go in either way. 

• C5 is the large black capacitor with a white stripe on one side — that side is negative and 
goes away from the + symbol. Make sure you install this one in the right direction, 
because it's polarized. Push it all the way down against the PCB. You might have to wiggle 
the leads a little bit. 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 10 — Solder the tube holder clips. 

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SI-3B6 Geiger Counter vl*0 

• These are the small metal clips. Positions J1 and J2 are the furthest apart; use these for 
the SBM-20 Geiger tube included in the kit. To substitute shorter tubes, you can put the 
right-hand clip into different positions. 

• Solder one lead of the clip, make sure it's straight, and then solder the other lead. 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 11 — Solder the LED and ceramic disc cap (CI). 

• The LED is polarized, so be sure to put it in the right way. It will sit up a bit above the PCB. 

• The longer, positive lead goes into the hole marked +, and the flat spot on the side of the 
LED indicates the shorter, negative lead (just like the drawing on the PCB). 

• Solder one lead, check to make sure the LED is sitting straight, and then solder the other 

• C1 can go in either way. 

Step 12 — Solder the battery holder. 

• Make sure it's straight, cut off the excess leads (watch your eyes!), and insert the small 
screw into the hole in the middle. Flip the board over and install the small nut. You'll need a 
small screwdriver, but you can use your fingers to hold the nut. 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 13 — Install the integrated circuits (Ul and U2), 

+ SI-3BG S1-1G Geiger Counter vlM 


• You'll need to bend the IC pins inward slightly to get them to fit into the sockets. Be 
careful! You don't want to push too hard and wind up with a pin bent and sticking out of the 
socket — maybe into your finger! 

• Very important! Make sure the notch and/or small dot on each IC goes toward the 
notch in the socket (on the left, if you're looking at the board with the text right-side- 
up). The ATtiny2313 has a large dot and a small dot on top — the small dot goes closest to 
the notch (pin 1). 

• The TLC555CP chip goes into the socket for U1 . 

• The ATTINY2313V chip goes into the socket for U2. 

• Handle these parts carefully, as they're static sensitive. 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 14 — Install the Geiger-M tiller tube. 

miqhtyohm.cofn Geiger Counter vl.0 


• Important! First, use a pair of 
needlenose pliers to bend the tube 
clips apart slightly, so they aren't 
so tight on the tube. Then carefully 
insert the tube. It is polarized, so 
make sure the + mark or CBM20 
label is on the left side of the 
board, closest to the tube clip 
marked +. 

• CAUTION: Don't push too 
hard on the Geiger tube, or 
drop it - it is very fragile. If the 
clips are too tight, stop and bend 
them outward slightly, then try 
again. Don't force the tube into 
the clips or you will crush it. 


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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 15 — Test it! 

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Geiger Counter Kit 


• WARNING: This kit is 
capable of generating high 
voltages (300V-600V). Don't touch 
any part of the circuit (particularly 
the bottom of the PCB) while it is 
on! The current is low, so while the 
potential for injury is low, it may 
startle you and cause you to drop 
your kit (and break your Geiger 

• Make sure the switch is off (away 
from the ON position). Then insert 
two AAA batteries in the battery 

• Use a small screwdriver to rotate 
the adjustment on VR1 all the way 
to the left (CCW) and turn on S1 . 

• Listen for clicks and watch the 
LED. Slowly, rotate VR1 clockwise 
until you hear clicks. Once you 
start to hear clicks, rotate VR1 
about 45° more and stop. 

• You're done! 

• If you have a multimeter with a 
very high input impedance (1 
gigohm), you can measure the 
voltage from ground to TP2 - it 
should be about 400V. 

• If you have an ordinary digital 
multimeter (DMM), you can get a 1 
gigohm (1GQ) resistor and put it in 
series with your DMM, then 
multiply the reading by the ratio 

[1 ,000 / (the internal resistance of 
your DMM in megohms)]. 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 16 — Assemble the case (optional). 

• Now's the time to install the tall pushbutton switch that comes with the case (instead of the 
short one from Step 8). Solder it at S2. 

• Remove the paper backing from the acrylic top and bottom plates. Use your fingernail, not 
anything metallic or sharp, because the acrylic scratches fairly easily. 

• Install the standoffs on the 4 corners of the PCB. The longer, round standoffs go on top of 
the board, and the shorter hex standoffs screw into them through the bottom. Finger-tight 
is OK, just make them snug. 

• Secure the bottom plate to the hex standoffs with a screw and lock washer at each corner. 
Tighten the screws until snug, but don't over-tighten — if you do, you'll crack the acrylic. 

• Turn the kit over and install the top plate with the remaining screws and lock washers. 
Again, don't overtighten the screws. 

• You're done! 

• Cleaning the case: Use a soft cloth (microfiber is best). Gently wipe the case 
clean, being careful not to scratch it. If necessary, you can remove the cover plates 
and wash them in soap and warm water. Never use alcohol or ammonia-based cleaners 
(such as Windex) as they will damage the acrylic and may cause it to crack. 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

Step 17 — Pimp your Geiger: add a superbright LED (optional). 

• Want to give your Geiger Counter 
Kit a little more sparkle? Replace 
the ordinary indicator that comes 
with the kit with something special: 
a superbright LED! Follow the 
directions at MightyOhm . 

Step 18 — Use the Geiger Bot app (optional). 

• Got an i Phone or other iOS device? 
Here's how to use the Geiger 
Counter Kit with the Geiger Bot app 
on your iOS device. Nice! 

How to Use It 

Easy — turn on the switch and listen for clicks! And watch the LED: it will flash every time a 
beta particle or gamma ray hits the tube! 

NOTE: The tube that comes with this kit is not sensitive to alpha particles. However, the kit is 

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Geiger Counter Kit 

compatible with other tubes that do detect alpha. 

Mute: If you get tired of hearing the clicks, you can push the button S2 to mute the sound. 

Pulse connector: The pulse connector (J6) has the following pinout: 

1.VCC (nominally 3V) 

2. Pulse output — a short (100|is) active high pulse every time the Geiger tube fires 

3. GND 

For more information, design files, source code: 

To connect your computer to the serial port (J7), you'll need a USB-serial converter that 
operates at 3.3V TTL levels. The serial header is set up to work with the common FTDI-232R- 
3V3 serial cable. 

Data is sent over the serial port at 9600 baud, 8N1 . The data is reported in comma separated 
value (CSV) format: 

CPS, #####, CPM, #####, uSv/hr, ###.##, SLOW|FAST|INST 

There are three modes. Normally, the sample period is LONG_PERIOD (default 60 seconds). 
This is SLOW averaging mode. If the last 5 measured counts exceed a preset threshold, the 
sample period switches to SHORT_PERIOD seconds (default 5 seconds). This is FAST mode, 
and is more responsive but less accurate. Finally, if CPS > 255, we report CPS*60 and switch to 
INST mode, since we can't store data in the (8-bit) sample buffer. 

This document was last generated on 201 2-1 1 -1 3 09:52:37 AM. 

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